- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - An initiative that promotes project-based learning in rural South Dakota schools is expanding to almost a dozen more schools in the fall.

South Dakota Innovation Lab educates students through projects that have real-world applications. For example, students in one school recently learned about genetics, anatomy, physiology and the environment by developing a model for the “perfect cow and pasture.”

“In most schools, we treat the subjects as distinct units of instruction. We might have 50 minutes of math, followed by 50 minutes of language arts, followed by 50 minutes of science throughout the day,” said Dan Guericke, director of the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, which runs the initiative in partnership with Sanford Research. “The approach we’re taking is, when you attack a problem, you may be working with math, science, language arts and art all at the same time.”

The initiative began four years ago with a handful of schools and is expanding with the next school year, the Argus Leader reported (https://argusne.ws/1rn1XUQ ). Schools volunteer to participate.

“I’ve been a part of a lot of initiatives that have come down in my years in education, and this was one that made the biggest change for me as an educator and also transformed my students’ outlook on education,” said Mari Biehl, a coordinator for South Dakota Innovation Lab. “My students were empowered by the work they got to do in the classroom, because they knew they were solving a problem that was real and was relevant to them, and they knew they were making a difference.”



West Central/Humboldt Elementary started the initiative in January with one classroom and plans to expand the program, Principal Matt Alley said

“We thought it was a great opportunity for our kids, to provide them with an opportunity to get out and do a little more hands-on type of activities that deal with more real-world problems,” he said. “We all know when they can get out and do things, the engagement goes up tremendously.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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